I don’t like goat cheese; I never have. I find it kind of bitter and acidic. Nonetheless, I put a piece in my mouth. It was a little creamy, slightly acidic and not that nice.
Without swallowing, I took a mouthful of the proffered wine. Instantly the cheese turned mellow and mild.
For the first time in my life, I thought goat cheese was delicious. I had just discovered that combining Syrah and goat cheese makes both the cheese and the wine itself milder and smoother.
It was the first of many interesting discoveries about the pairings of French cheeses and wines that I was to have. What better way to experience French food and wine than a workshop led by an expert in both?
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Paris Cheese and Wine Tasting Workshop
Kevin and I were in Paris for a 10-day vacation in France. We had both been there before, but never together, and were having a wonderful time. Paris is famous for many things – the museums, the Seine, the Eiffel Tower, and, of course, the food and wine.
Here’s where I have a confession to make. I actually don’t like a lot of French food. I find the snails oily and rubbery (I preferred the spicy cinnamony snails in Morocco – which I tried on a food tour in Marrakech), the sauces heavy and unnecessary, the meat under-cooked, and many of the pastries overly fussy.
The French food I love – the real taste of Paris for me – are the simple things. The baguettes, the cheese, the croissants – which we had for breakfast every morning – and, of course, the wine. We saved money and enjoyed ourselves immensely having picnic lunches of baguettes with thickly spread butter, delicious ham and mellow cheese.
I love taking food workshops, tours and classes. I’d done a food tour and winery tour in Santiago and enjoyed fun foods in NYC. So, loving cheese and wine as we do, it seemed a perfect addition to our vacation to take a class in cheese and wine tasting.
Booking our wine and cheese tasting, Paris
We booked a cheese and wine tasting workshop online. We had decided to book the cheese and wine tour mainly because they are my favorite things about France, so learning more about cheese and wine in Paris seemed like the perfect thing to do.
The host for our cheese and French wine tastings in Paris, France
Our host couldn’t have been any less intimidating. Everything about her was cheerful – her polka dotted Brooklynesque dress, her wide smile and her warm welcome. As the other 8 guests (all Americans) arrived, she chatted a little about herself and her experience as an American expat living in Paris.
Often taking classes abroad is an opportunity to speak with locals and learn about them and their culture, in addition to the thing the class is about.
Here, there was the chance to have a glimpse into the life of someone who had decided to combine her two loves – cheese and Paris – and gain a level of expertise that allowed her to live a Parisian life, share her knowledge with people like me, and write a book on cheese and wine pairings with a wine expert she knew.
We learned a lot about cheeses – different types, what wines to pair them with and an outsider’s view of French people’s relationship to it – but we also learned how it is possible to pursue your dreams if you work hard enough at it.
The wine and cheese tasting workshop
We started with a “welcome wine” – a crispy, lemony Muscadet. It was delicious. After that we tried 12 different cheeses, organized into 6 categories, each category with its own wine pairing.
An added bonus was the “menu” provided with a list of the cheeses and wines. There was space to rate each pairing with a score indicating whether the combination of wine and cheese improved or detracted from each other. It made it more interactive and educational than a typical wine tasting. I took copious notes.
As we sampled each of the cheeses and wines, our host was a fountain of knowledge. She described the types of cheese, then the specifics of each cheese. She shared its history, and interesting facts about it. As we held each cheese in our mouths, we swished the wine, noticing the change in taste of the cheese when mixed with wine.
If you do this workshop, you will have a completely different experience from mine because each cheese is handpicked that week from a gourmet cheese monger, with wines selected to match.
Many cheeses are perfect for a couple of weeks a year only; the expert cheese mongers time each cheese they sell perfectly, so you can only buy it when it is at its best. Ours were from Laurent Dubois in Saint-German.
Things I learned
I tried an herby goat cheese handmade by a monk in Languedoc; a delicious raw cow’s milk cheese that was, at 5-7 weeks old, too young to be legal in the United States; a pressed cheese made from the milk of cows that grazed on mountain flowers over 1500m above sea level (yes, it tasted like flowers), and a couple of blue cheeses with different tastes reflecting the different levels of salinity in their making. You could really taste the cheese-making process when you knew what it was.
In addition to discovering that Syrah made goat cheese palatable, I learned that rose is a good pairing for herbaceous cheese; Graves 2010, a Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot mix from Chateau du Mayne goes well with a blooming rind cheese; and “Champ Levat”, a Mondeuse from Jean-Yves Peron, became too acidic when paired with pressed cheeses.
In between, I learned that cheese and wine are a way of life in France. Most households have a cheese box in their fridge that they bring out after dinner so they can enjoy a few mouthfuls with a glass of wine. I really loved this opportunity to discover more about how the French eat cheese and drink wine.
Although I haven’t adopted a French lifestyle myself, I did at least have my notes on cheese and pairing to take away with me.
Doing our own cheese and wine ‘tour’, Paris
The next day, Kevin and I wandered around the markets of Saint Germain and stopped by Laurent Dubois. The workshop gave us an extra layer of awareness about the cheese, the job of the cheese monger, and the role that they played in the lives of many French people.
Back home, I have never found the exact same cheeses and wines, but it did increase my awareness of different types of cheeses, making buying cheese more fun and less intimidating. And now when I eat cheese and drink wine, I taste them separately first and then together and notice the change.
So, I feel like I am living the Parisian lifestyle – a little – back home in New York.
The verdict: Cheese and wine tasting Paris, France
Would I recommend the workshop in wine – cheese tasting? Yes, absolutely.
Paris is expensive and cheese and wine classes aren’t cheap, but it included all of the tastings and was was worth every euro. They were very generous with both cheese and wine.
Many of the cheeses looked unassuming at best – I would never have picked most of them myself – but it was a great opportunity to try cheeses that I would never have known to choose myself and learn the best cheese for wine tasting, so we could buy some ourselves later.
I would say that it was the best wine tasting in Paris, France because it also focused on the pairings with cheese.
The worksheet she provided with a list of each cheese and wine and space to mark our reactions was a nice touch that really personalized the experience and was a great resource to take away. Overall, it was a really enjoyable and educational cultural and culinary experience.
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Booking the cheese- wine tasting tasting class, Paris
When in Paris, I would definitely recommend having a cheese and wine tasting experience. France is all about food and wine, so learning about wine and cheese tasting in Paris is a perfect way to experience the city.
There are several cheese and wine tasting classes in Paris. The group size is small, and cheese & wine tasting classes in Paris often fill up, so I recommend booking early.
This is not exactly a cooking class, but my guide to choosing the best travel cooking class has some pointers that also apply here.
Practical Tips for Visiting Paris
Other things to do in Paris
Paris has so many amazing things to do! In addition to a workshop in cheese wine tasting and pairing, check out these top ten things to do in Paris. Plus, don’t miss these unique Parisian experiences:
If you are into foodie travel, you can also take a self-guided macaron walking tour of Paris.
How to get to Paris
If you are coming from the Americas or Australasia, a great option is to fly via London and enjoy a layover before heading to Paris. Here are some great ideas for a two-day layover in London.
How to get from Charles de Gaulle Airport to central Paris
You can get from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the center of Paris by train or shuttle.
The RER B (blue) train stops at both Terminal 2 and Terminal 3. If you arrive in Terminal 1, take the free shuttle train to Terminal 3. Buy train tickets from one of the blue ticket machines (not the yellow machines, which sell TGV tickets only) or from a ticket booth. Tickets cost €9.25 one-way and the train takes about 50 minutes. Trains run from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris between 04:46 and 23:56 seven days a week.
Note that the RER is NOT the Metro, but you can change to the Metro when you get to central Paris; the RER ticket allows you to transfer from the RER to the metro as long as you do so within the same station (ex. Gare du Nord has 2 metro lines, #4 and 5).
If you want a simpler option, you can take a shuttle from Charles de Gaulle Airport to central Paris .
If you fly into Orly airport, you can book a shuttle from Orly to the center of Paris here.
You can also rent a car, which you don’t need in Paris, but is a great way to get around the rest of France.
Getting around Paris
Paris is a great city to walk around, but distances can be big. The Metro is easy to take and has a huge network. Buy tickets from vending machines or booths near the turnstiles in Metro stations and are a flat fee. You can save money by purchasing a carnet (a stack of 10 individual tickets).
Where to stay in Paris
There are a lot of different places to stay in Paris. Refer to my guide to choosing the best hotel for tips on what to look for when making your choice.
Best* accommodations in Paris:
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* Based on highest booking.com ratings at time of writing.
Planning and packing for Paris
I use the Internet a lot to plan – and I hope this blog is useful resource for you – but I also always use a trusty Lonely Planet to get the big picture and practical things like maps. Use it as a useful resource than a travel bible so that you don’t miss out on loads of awesome things and places and experiences that aren’t listed in it. Buy the Paris Lonely Planet and the France Lonely Planet here.
Other useful planning resources:
- Europe Travel Guide: Helpful information and travel tips
- Vacation Planner: A step-by-step guide for all the things you need to do to plan your trip
When you are ready for your trip, check out my Essential Packing List for international travel.
Not on this list, but also an essential, in my opinion, is a travel diary. I love this leather-bound journal, as it really evokes the fantasy of travel for me.
Safety in Paris
Paris is generally a safe city; however, there are a lot of tourists and wherever there are tourists, there can be scammers. There are some famous travel scams in Paris. The best prevention is knowledge – if you know the scams, you will recognize them and can then avoid being a victim. Read my descriptions of the most common travel scams, with tips on how to avoid them.
Travel Insurance for Paris
Whether it is scams or sickness, you should always have travel insurance, just in case. I always hope I never need to use it but I get it just in case I do! It can be confusing, however. Read my Guide to Buying Travel Insurance to help demystify it.
A great insurance option is Travelex. It has coverage for all you’ll need. You can swap this link for either choose the best travel insurance plan for your trip here or get a quote right now:
Do you have any stories of Paris? I’d love to hear them. Comment below.
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For more food experiences, read other posts:
- learning to make pasta in Rome
- discovering delicious street food in Marrakesh
- sampling Chilean food in Santiago de Chile
James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents. He is passionate about experiential travel, i.e. meaningful travel that actively engages with the environment and culture. He helps people have similar experiences that involve active participation in activities and festivals; engaging with the local food and handicrafts through lessons and food tours; and interacting positively with environment by hiking, riding, rowing, diving and low/no impact animal encounters.
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